Writing the book on opportunity

Name: Linda Gill
Title: General Manager of Kimani Press, the African American imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Location: New York
Age: 47
Powerplay: Launching Kimani TRU, a line of fiction books for African American teens
BE: Publishing can be hard to break into. How did you do it?
LG: By using informational interviews with mid — level executives to gain an understanding of the industry. I used every contact, including family and friends, to establish these interviews and then went fully prepared with knowledge of the executive, their company, and questions I needed answered — most importantly, how to land a job! My first assignment at Condé Nast was initially supposed to be short term. But I made myself useful, was positive about all assignment requests, arrived early, stayed late, and generally let everyone know that I was willing, capable, and ready to learn. I ended up working at Vanity Fair for over three years. Every career move thereafter has been made through professional relationships.

BE: How did you position yourself for a new industry?
LG: By being fearless and resolute. I was willing to work hard and smart. From those first years in editorial to a successful tenure in circulation and marketing and, ultimately, responsibility for a book division, I was willing to constantly learn [and] adjust. I [also] attended seminars and conferences.

BE: Which skills did you identify as transferable?
LG: Early in my career it was about hard skills like computer skills. But it’s the soft skills that no one has the time to train anymore. You have to develop them on your own. [They include] relating to other people, being able to present your ideas when there may be opposing viewpoints at the table, resolving conflicts, and motivating people to work with you.

BE: How would you advise someone looking to make a career transition or break into an industry after graduation?
LG: Making calls, inviting people to lunch, or scheduling a 30 — minute informational meeting requires determination. Join professional organizations and ask to serve on a committee. This will allow you to call on executives in the field with a purpose, and it will give them an opportunity to get to know you. Ultimately, the best advice is to believe in yourself and have an unshakable vision of your future.